Hundreds of Thai protesters gathered at the Thammasat University in Rangsit, north of Bangkok Saturday to march to the north-east city of Khon Kaen against the military junta. Roughly 200 Thai police blocked the university’s main door preventing protesters from leaving.
One protest leader said “we want to tell the junta that you have taken Thailand back a long way.” Another protester, Sangsiri Teemanka, leader of the People’s Network for Welfare told Reuters that “Over the past four years under the coup government we have no rights in terms of speech, action. We want the junta to hear us.” The military has ruthlessly ruled the country since May 2014, after orchestrating a successful coup against the civilian government.
Protests in the country have become rare since the military junta banned public assembly, increasingly enforcing the lese-majeste law, which calls for prison sentences of three to 15 years for anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent."
According to the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights, the number of people investigated for insulting or defaming the monarchy more than doubled since the military took over compared to the previous 12 years.
In spite of a regime that does not tolerate and harshly punishes criticism, Thai civil rights groups including students, alternative-farming, anti-mining and healthcare networks joined the protest. They have vowed to stay put until they are allowed to march.